I am thankful that thus far today I have not had any unkind thoughts or said any harsh words or done anything that I regret.  However, now I need to get out of bed and so things may become more difficult.

How To Live A Good Life -Sylvia Boorstein

Catastrophizing about the social fallout of lockdown and subsequent restrictions there is a-plenty.  So instead, I will take a look at normalising the emotional confusion it can bring.

There has been much public discussion about support for loneliness lately, but ironically, while many folk felt lonely and isolated in lockdown, just as many sighed with relief that social expectations were lifted from them, and it was easier to decline demands to mingle more than they really want to. They found themselves surprisingly pleased with the freedom to savour their own company, think their own thoughts and do things in their own time.

And it is never black and white.  Mercurial moods may swing from joy in nature, being alive and comfortable aloneness to worry and alarm over the welfare of loved ones and the world at large.

Some clients with me learning to deal with anxiety were paradoxically feeling better because they are armed with tools to combat anxiety whereas it was new to many in lockdown.

If you find emotional life topsy-turvy at the moment, it might be helpful to understand that if you feel irritated and wish you could get away from family for a while it is perfectly normal.

For all the people who relished more time than usual with loved ones in lockdown, there were those who found it difficult to be around family night and day with less personal space or outside activities than usual. We refresh our ideas by getting out and about with a mixture of people.

Your reactions to family might have dismayed you – feeling “out-of-character” with your sense of identity.  If so, it’s important to realise that feeling irritated doesn’t mean that you don’t love your family in the right way.  Emotions are usually mixed.  They are also temporary and changeable in nature and pass if you let them.  It is actually hard to hold any emotion constant unless you grasp onto it – turning it into a sticky mood. The worst thing you can do is criticise yourself for being irritated, because guilt oftentimes turns into resentment. To get rid of guilt you start to blame the other person for “making” you feel guilty.  However much you love someone – people are irritating at times aren’t they?  It happens.

This is not to belittle serious underlying matters in your relationships.  But choose your time to address them when you are not in a pressure-cooker situation, or you have outside help to deal with any fallout and re-construction.  Either way, an ability to stand back and gain perspective will help see you through.

There are many ways to step back from the brink.  Find out what works for you.

Here are 4 simple (though not easy) tips to re-establish balance:

Tip 1  Keep the drama on the TV

Beware the impulse to create drama and turn what would otherwise be a fleeting spark of anger into a big scene.  How often do you get into a stew, knowing it really is a trivial matter but accelerating the antagonism?   There might be an underlying problem, or it might just be a frustration of the moment. Stopping to think is a more useful measured way of gauging the situation.

Our media-led society feeds us the idea that we are not fully alive unless there is some personal drama going on, alongside the polar idea that the perfect romance or family has no disagreements at all.  What a crazy mixed-up impossible myth!  Realise this has nothing to do with reality.  Keep the soap operas where they belong on TV. They may be entertaining to watch, but don’t create your own. It is actually exhausting to try and keep up the emotional turbulence of a romantic drama in everyday life.  I would like to debunk another popular soap opera norm – that you must express every passing feeling or inhibit your personal growth.  When irritable, put imaginary gaffer tape over the mouth until you’ve thought through the purpose and likely consequences of saying your piece.  It is your choice and within your power to prevent a molehill growing into a mountain.

Tip 2)  MOve

Take a break with as much space as you can until you feel more in control.  Move!  Exercise is so important for mental as well as physical health because it releases stress hormones from your body.  Stress fogs your brain, making it difficult to think and emotional meltdown more likely. If you can’t leave the house or workout, just shift your body.  That may be as simple as briefly moving to another room, a good stretch, changing chair or even the position of your chair.  Any physical movement helps shift your mind-set and get unstuck from an emotion.

Tip 3) Counting

Distract yourself.  Anything which requires you to turn your mind to something different can help.  Imagine you have a remote control to switch to a different channel in your brain. One simple shift is to your numerical channel and there’s no need to be a mathematician.  Counting is always available.  Count anything – it really doesn’t matter:  slats on the window-blinds; patterns on the floor; count back in your mind from 300 to 1.  There is wisdom in the old adage of counting to ten before speaking when you’re feeling exasperated, as it gives pause for thought. Is this really worth getting het up about?  It allows the more evolved cerebral hemispheres of the brain a chance to override automatic reactions of the primitive emotional brain.  The latter is a throwback in our history before we developed the capacity to think things through, and is still vital today when life is endangered and there is no time to think.

Tip 4 – Humour aids detachment

mental health hint :Whenever someone or something irritates you…..pause, take a deep breath, smile on the inside and say to yourself “it’s good to be alive”

Try this sometime.  I love this quote and have kept it by me for years.  Apologies to the author, but I do not know who wrote this.  I find it to be an empowering idea.   If it works for you, record it to view or listen to as a reminder.

You may need to have self-compassion and lower expectations of yourself , banishing that inner critic berating you as a bad person.  It does not mean your relationship is over if you’re not feeling loving, sweet or kind 24/7.  Remember that we are not in a Hollywood movie and are only human after all.


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